BASD parents balk at masking
BELLWOOD — After hearing 90 minutes of comments from nine parents in a crowd of about 60, Bellwood-Antis School Board members Tuesday voted down a resolution to “fully comply with the requirements of the masking mandate in schools unless it is revoked or determined to be invalid by a court.”
Pennsylvania’s acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam signed an order on Aug. 31 requiring face coverings to be worn in all school entities, including school districts, brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, private and parochial schools, career and technical centers, intermediate units and early learning and other child care settings, effective Sept. 7.
Parents spoke out against the masking mandate.
“We as parents are passionate against this unlawful and hurtful order. We know our kids, we wonder why the state is pushing so hard for the mandate to take parents’ rights away from them and their children. These mask mandates are hurting our kids, not helping. Let it up to the parents. We will do the right thing for our kids and yours,” Scott Dougherty said.
Brad Schmidt, stepfather of two district children, said putting a mask on a child feels absurd.
“This is wrong; it feels wrong. You don’t have to know the science that putting a mask on a child is wrong. This is evil. These children do not want to be wearing masks. We parents have to fight for them. I am asking you to give these children their freedom back,” Schmidt said.
Krista Smithmyer, who has eight children in the district, presented the board with a petition with 207 signatures against masking.
“We feel we should have the right to choose what is best for our children. We want freedom to do what’s right for the children. For us parents having a choice matters,” Smithmyer said.
“All we are asking you is for the parents to have the choice to mask or not mask at school. If we can be unmasked at a football game, why can’t we be unmasked at school. We will not be silenced, this is the beginning of government overreach,” Adam Lechner said.
“Wearing a mask is child abuse. If my wife and I don’t get to decide what is best for our children, we need to get them out of this school district,” Nick Learn said.
Students will continue to be required to wear masks under the mandate, but the deadline for parents to seek a medical exemption for wearing masks was extended to Oct. 1.
Part of the resolution, which would have been sent to Gov. Tom Wolf, Beam, the state Department of Education and local legislators, requested that local control over COVID-19 related safety measures be referred to the district.
District officials are not happy with the mask mandate.
“We have tried to give you normalcy. We agree with you (parents) and are trying to do what we can to get it back,” Superintendent Tom McInroy said.
“No one on the board likes this stupid order,” said board member Tom Finn.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.